DENHAM SPRINGS -- Gathered in front of a large projection screen in the Denham Springs Junior High library, students interacted with half a dozen authors and celebrated the power of literacy during World Read Aloud Day on Friday, Feb. 1.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of World Read Aloud Day, which has become one of the most popular programs for LitWorld, a non-profit organization that encourages self-empowerment and community change through literacy.

World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories, according to its website, and its purpose is to bring communities together across the globe by reading aloud.

LitWorld’s website states that 750 million adults around the world — two-thirds of them women — lack basic reading and writing skills. Reading aloud to children daily puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily reading, the website says.

LitWorld’s belief of “literacy as a human right” is what triggered first-year librarian Laura Foy’s desire to implement the World Read Aloud Day program at Denham Springs Junior High.

“LitWorld goes into poverty stricken countries, and they give books and teach literacy sessions to the kids,” Foy said. “That’s one way these kids can get out of poverty, is by becoming literate. The more the word gets out about [LitWorld], the more interest and funding this group can get. I’m hoping people jump on the bandwagon.”

DSJH students were certainly on the bandwagon last Friday.

With different authors calling in via Skype throughout the day, DSJH students chatted with children’s writers Ginger Johnson, Fran Wilde, Patricia Sutton, Jen Petro-Roy, Sarah McGuire and Debra Smith.

The first author to appear on screen was Johnson, who read the first chapter of her new book, “The Splintered Light,” which tells of 11-year-old Ishmael who has his black-and-white world thrown upside down when he becomes the only person in the world able to see color.

Johnson said she got the idea for the book when her 18-year-old son was born, though she didn’t start writing it until 10 years ago.

“The beginning has changed about a zillion times,” she joked with the students.

After Johnson read from her 416-page book, DSJH students spent a few minutes asking questions about Johnson’s life as an author.

Some of those questions were:

What inspired you to write the book?

“Walking with my son in the stroller. I put those thoughts down on paper and put it away, but those thoughts usually come back to me, and these did.”

Did you design the cover?

“No, the publisher has final say on that. But I was amazed with how it came out.”

Did you think you’d be an author growing up?

“No, but I always had a journal and liked writing. I have an English degree and I taught college kids to write essays. Writing books is much more fun.”

Foy said there are statistics that prove children who are regularly read to have a better comprehension level and vocabulary. According to LitWorld, reading aloud fosters language development, genre awareness, literary and informational text knowledge, and social emotional well-being.

“If a kid isn’t on the same reading level, having someone read to them helps them catch up versus reading to themselves,” Foy said. “The earlier you start reading to kids, the better off they’ll be.”

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